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Memo: Law & Governance: France's burqa ban

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  • 1. Hertie  School  of  Governance                    Class   U5  Law  and  Governance   Convenor   Professor  Dr.  Nico  Krisch          Student   Steven  Lauwers                    Date   11.11.2010     MEMO   2:  DOES   FRANCE’S   LAW   TO   BAN   THE   ISLAMIC   HIJAB,  OR   BURQA,  IN   PUBLIC   SPACE   VIOLATE  THE  EUROPEAN  CONVENTION  ON  HUMAN  RIGHTS  (‘ECHR’)?                    (word  count:  915)     Introduction:     Article  9,  §1  of  the  ECHR  guarantees  the  “freedom  of  thought,  conscience  and  religion;  (…)  and  in   public  or  private,  to  manifest  his  religion  or  belief,  in  worship,  teaching,  practice  and  observance.”   This  freedom  is  however  limited  in  §2,  as  it  is  “subject  only  to  such  limitations  as  are  prescribed  by   law  and  are  necessary  in  a  democratic  society  in  the  interests  of  public  safety,  for  the  protection  of   public  order,  health  or  morals,  or  the  protection  of  the  rights  and  freedoms  of  others.”  i  The  memo   will  explain  why  France’s  law  violates  Article  9  of  the  ECHR.       Interference:  Does  France’s  law  interfere  with  Article  9  of  the  ECHR?   -­  Yes.  France’s  new  law  states  that  “(i)n  a  public  space,  it  is  prohibited  to  wear  clothing  that  covers   the  face”.  ii    This  law  thus  applies  to  the  Burqa  (or  Hijab):  a  garment  worn  by  women  in  some   Islamic  traditions  to  cover  their  bodies  and  face  in  public  spaces.  While  some  might  argue  the   Burqa,   or   Hijab,   is   “not   a   religious   symbol”,   depending   on   how   one   interprets   the   Koran,   it   is   undeniably  associated  with  Islam  religion.  iii     Legitimacy:  Is  the  measure  prescribed  by  law?   -­  Yes.  If  we  refer  to  the  case  Şahin  v  Turkey,  law  can  be  defined  as  “regulatory  measures  taken  by   professional   regulatory   bodies”   and   “the   provision   in   force”   iv.   The   Lower   House   of   Parliament   approved  the  legislation  in  September  this  year  and  the  (preliminary)  law  was  already  published   in  Le  Journal  Officiel  on  March  17,  2004.  The  European  Court  for  Human  Rights  (‘ECtHR’)  may   even  consider  that  extensive  coverage  of  the  law  in  the  international  press  as  a  source  of  basic   due  process  notification.  v     Suitability:  Does  the  measure  have  a  legitimate  aim?   -­  Yes.  §2  of  Article  9  of  the  ECHR  explains  under  what  circumstances  the  states  may  interfere   with   religious   freedom.   France   argues   the   ban   is   necessary   in   their   democratic   society   to   safeguard  the  principle  of  secularism  (“laicité”),  which  protects  government  affairs  from  religious   involvement   -­‐   and   the   other   way   around.   Also,   in   order   to   uphold   public   safety   in   society,   a   person  in  a  public  space  has  to  be  identifiable  at  all  times.  Finally,  as  the  Burqa  is  associated  with   the  suppression  of  women,  the  ban  will  enhance  gender  equality  in  society.    
  • 2. Necessity:  Is  the  measure  proportionate  to  the  aim  to  be  achieved?   -­   No.   Article   9   of   the   ECHR   protects   the   individual   right   of   freedom   of   religion;   it   is   thus   important   that   the   interference   of   the   French   government   with   Article   9   of   the   ECHR   is   well-­‐ balanced  with  an  individual’s  need  and/or  right  of  freedom  of  religion  and/or  the  manifestation   of  his/her  religion.  The  following  analysis  will  show  that  the  measure  is  disproportionate  to  the   aim  to  be  achieved.       A  first  important  step  is  to  define  what  margin  of  appreciation  the  ECtHR  would  grant  France  to   interfere   with   Article   9   of   the   ECHR.   While   France   has   valid   concerns   for   the   ban   (ref.   ‘Suitability’),   “many   legal   provisions   already   serve   to   ban   or   in   certain   cases   deter   people   from   wearing  the  full  veil  (…).”  vi  France  has  a  wide  range  of  individual  prescriptions  or  prohibitions,   making   its   legislation,   compared   with   that   of   similar   democracies,   one   of   the   most   restrictive   with  respect  to  these  practices.  vii  France  identifies  the  principle  of  “laicité”  as  one  of  the  pillars  of   their   society   and   argues   the   ban   is   necessary   to   safeguard   this   secularism.   The   principle   of   secularism  however  only  applies  to  public  institutions  to  assure  neutrality  from  representatives   of   public   authorities   in   the   exercise   of   their   duties.   It   can   also   only   be   binding   on   society   or   individuals  by  virtue  of  the  specific  demands  on  certain  public  services,  as  for  example  the  ban  in   (public)  schools.  viii       The  need  to  identify  individuals’  faces  is  the  core  of  the  public  security  argument,  but  a  ban  in   all   public   areas   is   disproportionate   to   the   aim   pursued,   especially   in   light   of   the   far-­‐reaching   implications  it  has  for  individuals  to  express  their  religious  beliefs.  ix  In  the  case  of  Ahmet  Arslan   and  others  v.  Turkey  the  ECtHR  ruled  that  the  limitations  imposed  on  the  followers  of  a  religious   minority,   who   were   sanctioned   for   wearing   their   religious   attire   in   the   streets,   were   not   proportionate   to   the   legitimate   aims   (public   safety   and   public   order)   pursued   by   the   Turkish   authorities.  x  Existing  provisions  in  France,  based  on  public  security  and  anti-­‐fraud  consideration,   already  require  people  to  identify  themselves  at  particular  times  and  thus  to  uncover  their  faces.   xi  Also,  insofar,  no  particular  public  security  problems  have  been  associated  with  the  Burqa,  or   Hijab,  as  such.  If  limited  to  situations  where  accurate  identification  is  of  crucial  importance  (e.g.   court  hearings,  airport  safety  checks,  etc.),  a  ban  would  be  proportionate  to  the  measures  to  be   achieved.  xii       Whereas  the  claim  of  gender  equality  may  be  justified  in  certain  cases,  the  complete  ban  of  the   Burqa  may  actually  aggravate  the  situation.  xiii  It  could  further  restrict  the  women's  freedom  by   tying   them   to   their   private   homes.   xiv   In   Şahin   v   Turkey,   the   ECtHR   stated   that   banning   headscarves  would  protect  the  freedoms  of  those  who  do  not  wish  to  wear  a  headscarf.   xv   The   ECtHR  will  however  need  to  consider  the  possibility  that  women  might  legitimately  feel  the  need   to  wear  the  headscarf  as  part  of  their  personal  duty  to  their  faith  and  not  due  to  coercion  from   outside.   Thus,   as   a   consequence   of   the   ban,   women   might   be   derived   from   the   possibility   to   exercise  their  personal  freedom.  
  • 3.                                                                                                                 i  European  Convention  on  Human  Rights.  Available  at:  http://www.hri.org/docs/ECHR50.html    [Visited:  November  6,   2010].   ii  Projet  de  loi.  Available  at:  http://www.senat.fr/petite-­‐loi-­‐ameli/2009-­‐2010/700.html    [Visited:  November  6,  2010].   iii  ECLJ.  Legal  Analysis  Regarding  the  "Legitimacy  of  French  Proposal  to  Ban  the  Burqa  in  Public  Sphere.  Available  at:   http://www.eclj.org/Releases/Read.aspx?GUID=9bf429be-­‐368e-­‐463b-­‐831e-­‐5f0328b0ff00&s=eur    [Visited:  November  8,   2010].   iv    Leyla  Şahin  v.  Turkey.  2004.  European  Court  of  Human  Rights.  Para  77.   v  Boustead  K.  French  headscarf  law  before  ECHR.  Available  at:   http://www.law.fsu.edu/journals/transnational/backissues/issue16_2.html    [Visited:  November  9,  2010].   vi  Conseil  d'État.  Étude  relative  aux  possibilités  juridiques  d’interdiction  du  port  du  voile  intégral.  Available  at:   http://www.conseil-­‐etat.fr/cde/node.php?articleid=2000  [Visited:  November  6,  2010].   vii  Ibidem   viii  Ibidem   ix  L.  Peroni.  Would  a  Niqab  and  Burqa  ban  pass  the  Strasbourg  test.  Strasbourg  Observers.  Available  at:   http://strasbourgobservers.com/2010/05/04/burqa-­‐and-­‐niqab-­‐ban/#more-­‐166    [Visited:  November  6,  2010].   x  Ahmet  Arslan  and  others  v.  Turkey.  2010.  ECtHR.   xi  Conseil  d'État.  Idem.   xii  E.M.  Krockow.  Open  Think  Tank  Article  "The  Burqa  Ban  -­‐  Motiviations,  Justifications  and  Likely  Consequences".  Atlantic   Community.    Available  at:  http://www.atlantic-­‐community.org/index/articles/view/The_Burqa_Ban_-­‐ _Motiviations,_Justifications_and_Likely_Consequences    [Visited:  November  7,  2010].   xiii  T.  Hoopes.  The  Leyla  Şahin  v.  Turkey  Case  Before  the  European  Court  of  Human  Rights.  Chinese  Journal  of  International   Law.  Available  at:  http://chinesejil.oxfordjournals.org/content/5/3/719.full  [Visited:  November  10,  2010].   xiv  Ibidem   xv  Leyla  Sahin  v.  Turkey.  2004.  European  Court  of  Human  Rights.  Para  111.  

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